Traveling alone can be an empowering experience, but it comes with small risks. There is power in numbers, and if you want to travel solo (my preferred method of travel) than you need to be prepared to protect yourself. Common sense can get you very far, but knowing how to handle a potentially dangerous situation, can be the difference between life and death.
As a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, I personally feel safe knowing that I am armed with self-defense tactics should I ever need them. Many solo travelers have not had professional training, and may not know what to do should they find themselves in a less than desirable situation.
To help provide some self-defense tips and insight, I reached out to retired fighter and Muay Thai champion, Chris Romulo to discuss self-defense specifically for solo travelers.
What is the best way to assess a potentially dangerous situation before it turns into a dangerous problem?
Beginning to assess a situation begins with one of the most primal triggers known to man, the gut feeling. That feeling of "something doesn't feel right" would be the best time to ask yourself, "am I in the wrong place at the wrong time?” If you answer yes, look for the authorities or bystanders. Make eye contact, get off your phone (unless you are calling for help) and look for escape routes to run for help.
Even if your "gut feeling" was wrong, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
How do you think knowledge of self-defense can play a part for travelers?
It plays a crucial role in helping travelers become more aware and less paranoid of their surroundings. It is easy to drop your guard when on vacation due to comfort zones. When traveling, we are in the mindset of leisure or relaxation, causing our awareness to be on low alert. Staying on medium/moderate alert levels will raise your awareness without having you flinch at every unfamiliar scenario.
What's the most imperative self-defense tactic to master for a small person (for example a small solo female traveler) to overcome a larger attacker?
The most imperative self defense tactic to master is the ability to run or sprint. If we think of a smaller person versus a larger attacker, a motorcycle will always be able to out run a tractor trailer. But if that motorcycle crashes into that truck, physics takes over in the opposite way. Run when you can and only fight when there is no option to run.
If and only if you must engage the larger attacker, use knees and elbows to strike at vital points, like the groin and face, would be the best bet to stun and run.
Is there a way to read someone to know if they are going to try to follow you from a public venue?
Again, this is where the gut feeling comes into play. If you come into contact verbally or just visually with someone who gives off a bad vibe, this is where you should shift into high alert. Raising your awareness and helping you get creative with finding a safe way out of the situation.
What's the best advice you have on self defense for solo female travelers?
Know your terrain. Do your best to stay out of high risk areas. Research the areas that you will be visiting ahead of time. Knowledge of your surroundings is the best way to anticipate any kind of moderate to high alert scenarios that you might encounter. Be calculated.
If someone is trying to rob a traveler, is it best to just give them what they want or try to fight it? No one wants to be in a foreign country without money or a passport.
It is best to give them what ever valuables that you might have because they can all be replaced. Human life can not be replaced. Yes, it would be detrimental to your trip if you lost your money and passport, but there is always an option to losing material goods.
What do predators look for? How can travelers who are unfamiliar with their surroundings avoid becoming a target?
Predators are looking for 3 things; your material goods (money, jewelry, phone, etc), your body, or your life.
Travelers can avoid becoming a target by learning awareness of their surroundings. Don't flaunt your belongings in areas that feel high risk.
Understand that predators look for people that give off a "prey vibe". They are not looking for people that they feel might put up a fight. There are 3 things a predator doesn't want, to get caught, to get hurt, or a scenario to take too long.
Keep that in mind as you go about your journey and remember there are no guarantees. But if you find yourself in a situation, accept what is happening (get out of the denial stage), get challenged (all challenges can be figured out) and keep thinking (there's more than one way to skin a cat).
When Solo Traveling, Remember to:
- Trust your gut
- Stay alert
- Practice running
- If you must fight back, target weak areas of the body (face and groin)
- Give away your valuables to get away
- Don’t flaunt high value items
- Act confident
About the Chris Romulo:
Chris Romulo grew up in a broken home. After a series of unfortunate events in grammar school, Chris took to the streets of Queens, New York, where at twenty years old a near-death street fight redirected his life and purpose. Chris then set off on a twenty-year journey through the study of Muay Thai, which took him from New York City to Bangkok, Thailand and back again. As a fighter, Chris went on to become the first professional North American Super-Middleweight Muay Thai Champion in 2010. But after retiring, Chris was forced to make one more comeback when Hurricane Sandy destroyed his home and gym in 2012.
For two decades Chris Romulo kept these stories buried inside. Now he opens up in his new book “Champions Uprising”. Chris Romulo’s personal journey captivates the reader as you watch him struggle as a young man on the streets to become a successful and respected fighter with a steadfast mindset to guide his choices.